Elections for the Arts and Sciences Federation of Associations should be of little significance. While ASFA is traditionally little more than a glorified party planning committee, it seems to be growing more politicized. But not exactly in a good sense. It is more political in the sense that CSU politics, with its petty scandals in tow, seem to be spreading to ASFA.
Two issues in this election have drawn particular concern. The first is the new electoral reforms proposed by ASFA chief electoral officer, Colby Briggs. The primary reform, requiring candidates to disclose any ties to other organizations, is a good idea 8212; Concordia students should be aware of the ties that their potential elected representatives may have.
Briggs has also required that any assistance and even advice from members of other organizations be declared to him, which frankly seems bizarre.
How Briggs intends to enforce these rules is a mystery, and what would exactly qualify as banned advice is equally unclear. As well, Briggs has given himself the ability to subtract votes from candidates for minor offences, telling the Concordian that: “The idea with these penalties is that they’re pretty severe. We’re taking a page out of the book of the government of China here.”
Of course, there are no elections in China where the outcome is not pre-decided. While we recognize that Briggs may have been joking in this instance, for someone who claims to be taking his responsibilities seriously, we find this shows, at best, a
lack of judgment. Moreover, the idea that the CEO can overrule the democratic will of students is shocking and plainly wrong. It is impossible to imagine a scenario in which removing legitimate votes from a candidate would be an appropriate remedy to some
violation of election rules. Briggs’ “reforms” do nothing to improve to integrity and transparency of the ASFA elections.
Instead, these subjective and discretionary reforms only make the abuse of power and the rigging of an election by the CEO easy. We have little reason to believe that Briggs has set out to rig this election, but we find his reforms highly suspicious and deeply concerning. Our second concern stems from the backgrounds of several candidates
running on the “Stronger ASFA” ticket. Presidential candidate Charles Brenchley is of particular concern. As the former president of the Dawson Student Union, around $43,000 was unaccounted for at the end of Brenchley’s term; over $29,000 of
that had been stolen by vice president finance, Shanice Rose. We do not believe that Brenchley did anything illegal, but the fact that a president’s failure to notice that
over 10 per cent of his union’s budget went into trips, clothing and jewelry for one of his colleagues shows at best a shocking level of naivety and at worst extreme negligence.
This alone should not be reason to disqualify an individual from holding public office in the future, were this incident turned into a learning experience. However, when asked what he had learned from the theft, Brenchley told the Concordian that he was sure ASFA’s stronger financial safeguards would prevent incidents like this. Hardly reassuring considering ASFA’s finances from last year are a mess, and the association’s auditor has thus far refused to sign off on them. Brenchley was also president of the DSU during a highly controversial vote &- supported by the student
union – to join the Canadian Federation of Students, a group that many Concordia students have expressed a desire to leave.
During that election, the “referendum oversight committee,” which was made up of two appointees from the union and two CFS appointees ruled that factually accurate signs created by the “no” side could not be posted as the information on them was too old or did not specifically relate to Dawson. Brenchley also served as the acting treasurer of CFS-Quebec for a period last year. That organization’s finances are a mess, and are
currently the subject of multiple lawsuits. He, along with colleagues Noah Stewart-Ornstein and Colin Goldfinch, refused to step down at the end of his term. He claims this was because he wanted to ensure that the group’s audits were completed. The three only stepped down after newly appointed board members went to court.
Brenchley may be innocent and well-intentioned but we have serious reservations about a candidate who seems to be followed by scandal and financial mismanagement. We also must question the judgment of the vice-presidential candidates and independent councillors who have chosen to stand alongside such an individual. And we must note that the slate includes Anna Goldfinch (Goldfinch’s younger sister) and Dania
Habib, who were both member’s of last year’s Change slate for CSU. It is our feeling that a “vote for a stronger ASFA” is a vote for petty corruption and gutter politics of Change and the late Unity era.